‘Bubba’ celebrated outside the Big A

Friends and family honor late Estancia High School football player Brian ‘Bubba’ Kapko at fourth annual Bub-A-Que event.

By Michael Miller
Daily Pilot
June 14, 2008

ANAHEIM — Not long after his youngest brother died in a car accident, Matt Kapko went on vacation in Yosemite and passed by a site that reminded him of what he’d lost.

That was the Three Brothers, a rock formation that consists of three adjacent peaks.

Soon after Kapko returned, he and his brother, Adam, traveled to San Francisco and had a tattoo artist recreate the image on each of their bodies.

The tattoo, which Matt sports on his forearm and Adam on his calf, features the formation with a clear blue sky, a lake below, and the words “Brian Kapko 1986-2005” on the top and bottom.

Brian Kapko, a former Estancia High School football player who graduated in 2004, had a knack for acquiring nicknames.

When he was a small child, his family called him “Thud” because he made such a resounding noise when he fell down.

Later, his tendency to suffer scrapes and bruises and shrug them off earned him the more famous tag of “Bubba.” When Matt set out to design the tattoo, though, he didn’t need a pet name.

“I’m one of the only ones who called him Brian, actually,” he said, displaying the tattoo outside Angel Stadium of Anaheim as Brian’s family and friends gathered for the fourth annual Bub-A-Que. “I never really caught on with Bubba.”

Brian or Bubba, the youngest Kapko touched and inspired many people, and 150 of them met at the ballpark Saturday to enjoy an Angels game in his honor.

In the partial shade of the big “A” sign in the parking lot, Kapko’s extended family and friends enjoyed food from the Newport Rib Company before planning to head inside to watch the Angels take on the Atlanta Braves.

The annual event, which charged $50 for a ticket this year, raises funds for the Brian Kapko Foundation, a nonprofit that donates money for scholarships and other functions in the Estancia community.

This year, the foundation netted funds for a new Estancia marquee and varsity football uniforms, among other things.

According to Nick Engelke, a former football teammate, Kapko was all about positive energy. Bubba, he said, was a partyer and a skilled practical joker who also showed a tough work ethic as team captain.

“He could make anyone laugh,” Engelke said. “I don’t think I ever saw him upset, sad or angry. We all looked up to Bubba.”

* Youngest of three athletic brothers

* Got his nickname from childhood tendency to suffer injuries and bounce back quickly

*Captain of Estancia High School football team his senior year; also active in drama, Bible Club and student government

*Graduated from Estancia in 2004

*Was attending Johnson & Wales University in Colorado at the time of his death